The Beaver Restoration Guidebook: Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and Floodplains

More and more, restoration practitioners are using beaver to accomplish stream, wetland, and floodplain restoration. This is happening because, by constructing dams that impound water and retain sediment, beaver substantially alter the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the surrounding river ecosystem, providing benefits to plants, fish, and wildlife. The possible results are many, inclusive of: higher water tables; reconnected and expanded floodplains; more hyporheic exchange; higher summer base flows; expanded wetlands; improved water quality; greater habitat complexity; more diversity and richness in the populations of plants, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals; and overall increased complexity of the river ecosystem.

In many cases these effects are the very same outcomes that have been identified for river restoration projects. Thus, by creating new and more complex habitat in degraded systems, beaver dams (and their human-facilitated analogues) have the potential to help restoration practitioners achieve their objectives. Beaver can be our new partner in habitat restoration.

Yet even though the potential benefits of restoring beaver populations on the landscape are numerous, so, too, is the potential for beaver/human conflicts. These conflicts can arise from an overlap of preferred habitats by both humans and beavers, misunderstandings of how beavers modify their habitats, and a lack of planning or use of adaptive management on restoration projects. Reviewing the information provided in this guidebook will help interested parties approach beaver-based restoration from a more informed perspective, so that they can manage expectations and increase the likelihood of success. 

Report to the Secretary of the Interior from the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science

The Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science (ACCCNRS or the Committee) advises the Secretary of the Interior on the operations and partnerships of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and Climate Science Centers (CSCs). The Committee commends the United States (U.S.) Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on the establishment of the NCCWSC and CSCs. The NCCWSC and CSCs fill a vital role by linking with universities and other partners and working with resource managers to plan, assess, and co-produce the scientific information and tools needed to manage the risks of climate change to help conserve fish, wildlife, and their habitats as well as other natural and cultural resources.

In addition, the Committee would like to recognize USGS and DOI for significant accomplishments since the inception of the NCCWSC and CSCs, including establishing eight CSCs; developing stakeholder-informed science agendas for each of them; taking a scientific focus on the impacts of projected climate change on fish, wildlife, and their habitats, as well as other natural and cultural resources; emphasizing the scientific needs of resource managers and decision makers; drafting a regionally derived national science agenda; and allocating over $93 million in funding for climate adaptation research projects.

In this report, the Committee offers nine recommendations regarding the co-production of actionable science, encouraging coordination and collaboration within DOI and with partners, engaging tribal and indigenous peoples, and program evaluation.

Predicting Climate Change Impacts on Aquatic Ecosystems across the Pacific Northwest

Trout and salmon populations, which play a critical role in many ecosystems and economies, have dramatically declined in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) due to habitat degradation and fragmentation and introductions of invasive species, and are expected to be further impacted by future climate change. Understanding how climate change will influence the abundance, distribution, genetic diversity, and value of these native fish species is crucial for their management and recovery. This project used modeling techniques to study how climate change might affect freshwater habitats of key trout and salmon species throughout the PNW. The goal of the study was to develop and provide novel tools that will help managers predict and respond to potential climate change induced impacts on habitats, populations, and economies.

Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation in the Southeast Region

Climate change is altering species distributions in unpredictable ways (IPPC 2007, Van der Putten et al. 2010) and conservationists require a way to prioritize strategic land conservation that will conserve the maximum amount of biological diversity despite changing distribution patterns. Conservation approaches based on species locations or on predicted species’ responses to climate, are necessary, but hampered by uncertainty. Here we offer a complementary approach, one that aims to identify key areas for conservation based on land characteristics that increase diversity and resilience.

A climate-resilient conservation portfolio includes sites representative of all geophysical settings selected for their landscape diversity and local connectedness. We developed methods to identify such a portfolio. First, we mapped geophysical settings across the entire study area. Second, within each geophysical setting we located sites with diverse topography that were highly connected by natural cover. Third, we compared the identified sites with the current network of conservation lands and with The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC’s) portfolio of important biodiversity sites identified based on rare species and natural community locations. Using this information we noted geophysical settings that were underrepresented in current conservation and identified places for each setting that could serve as strongholds for diversity both now and into the future.

Taking the Lead on Climate Change: Land Trusts Can Safeguard the Southeast’s Natural Heritage

Land trusts have an important role to play in addressing climate change. Some conservation organizations are already involved in protecting forests that sequester carbon dioxide, offsetting harmful greenhouse gases. Others promote more compact development patterns, which help reduce CO2 emissions. But most land trusts protect land for a variety of reasons that typically have more to do with recreation, biodiversity, view sheds, water quality or cultural values. While land conservation for such purposes is important, the question that many will ask of land trusts is: What are you doing about climate change? For those organizations interested in answering that question, the challenge is to identify those places that can provide refuge to species and serve as natural strongholds in the event of drought, flood and other disturbances, and thereby facilitate adaptation by both wildlife and humans to climate change. The challenge is pressing, and it will require new knowledge and different ways of working.

Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the North-central California Coast and Ocean

This vulnerability assessment is a science-based effort to identify how and why focal resources (habitats, species, and ecosystem services) across the North-central California coast and ocean region are likely to be affected by future climate conditions. The goal of this assessment is to provide expert-driven, scientifically sound assessments to enable marine resource managers to respond to, plan, and manage for the impacts of climate change to habitats, species, and ecosystem services within the region. This information can help prioritize management actions, and can help managers understand why a given resource may or may not be vulnerable to a changing climate, enabling a more appropriate and effective management response. Climate change vulnerability of 44 focal resources, including eight habitats, populations of 31 species, and five ecosystem services was assessed by considering exposure and sensitivity to climate changes and non-climate stressors and adaptive capacity. The 44 focal resources were identified and assessed by representatives from federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. Coastal habitats in the study region, including beaches and dunes, estuaries, and the rocky intertidal, along with associated species and ecosystem services, were identified through this assessment as being most vulnerable, and will likely be prioritized for future management action. 

Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action

This report summarizes and communicates the results of EPA’s ongoing Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis (CIRA) project.

The goal of this work is to estimate to what degree climate change impacts and damages to multiple U.S. sectors (e.g., human health, infrastructure, and water resources) may be avoided or reduced in a future with significant global action to reduce GHG emissions, compared to a future in which current emissions continue to grow. Importantly, only a small portion of the impacts of climate change are estimated, and therefore this report captures just some of the total benefits of reducing GHGs. To achieve this, a multi-model framework was developed to estimate the impacts and damages to the human health and welfare of people in the U.S. The CIRA framework uses consistent inputs (e.g., socioeconomic and climate scenarios) to enable consistent comparison of sectoral impacts across time and space. In addition, the role of adaptation is modeled for some of the sectors to explore the potential for risk reduction and, where applicable, to quantify the costs associated with adaptive actions.

The methods and results of the CIRA project have been peer reviewed in the scientific literature, including a special issue of Climatic Change entitled, “A Multi-Model Framework to Achieve Consistent Evaluation of Climate Change Impacts in the United States.” 

Climate Change Adaptation in United States Federal Natural Resource Science and Management Agencies: A Synthesis

Federal agencies with responsibility for natural resource management are mandated to consider climate change in planning and projects, and to begin preparing for the effects of climate change. Federal agencies are making significant progress in climate change adaptation, although lack of financial resources has slowed implementation of climate-focused activities. Currently, most agencies have broad-scale strategic plans that describe approaches and priorities for climate change in general and for adaptation in particular. Although adequate scientific databases, analytical tools, and decision support aids are generally available to assist with adaptation, on-the-ground projects and plans relevant to resource management have been implemented unevenly across agencies. Mainstreaming of climate-smart practices in agencies has been slow to develop, probably because it has not been required at local to regional scales and because systems of accountability are rare. At the management-unit scale, much of the progress to date has occurred where motivated resource managers and scientists have collaborated to develop climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation options. These science-management partnerships provide a model for how adaptation can move forward across large landscapes, and can be emulated by others who want to begin the process. Because sustainable resource management typically encompasses restoration and building of resilience in ecosystems, agencies can build on existing practices, adjusting them as necessary to address risks posed by a changing climate. Progress can be accelerated through increased cooperation between management-based and science-based agencies and through collaboration with other organizations in the public and private sectors.

Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity (M-SLICE) advocates for inclusive and equitable public policies, and the allocation of public and private investments to transition traditionally underserved communities into healthy and vibrant places to live, work, and play throughout Metro St. Louis. Since inception, our work has focused on the Northside of St. Louis to address disparities of environmental justice and climate equity, the unbanked and underbanked, Community Reinvestment Act, civic engagement, and equitable community and economic development practices.

Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico

The San Juan Bay (Puerto Rico) National Estuary Program used EPA’s publication, “Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans” to create a risk-based climate change vulnerability assessment. This video describes some climate change impacts that are already affecting San Juan, documents why the San Juan Bay National Estuary Program undertook this vulnerability assessment project, and explains the benefits of conducting the study.